WASHINGTON -- Some Democratic women state lawmakers say fear of the tea party is driving the Republican Party during the current federal government shutdown and budget talks.
The state legislators, in Washington for the Women Legislators' Lobby conference, come from states where Republican representatives in the U.S. House voted for budget proposals that included defunding Obamacare. The state legislators said that the votes, which have been blamed for the shutdown, would likely not harm those Congress members back home due to rising tea party sentiment among local GOP voters.
Texas state Rep. Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) told HuffPost that Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Texas) victory as a tea party candidate in last year's U.S. Senate Republican primary has spurred fear among Republicans in her state that similar candidates could win office in the future. She said with Cruz leading the charge in Washington to defund Obamacare as part of the budget debate, she is not surprised that other Texas Republicans are joining in.
"A lot of my colleagues to the right may have a different opinion, but [Republicans] worry they might have a primary on the right because of Cruz," Farrar said.
Missouri state Rep. Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis) echoed Farrar's comments, noting an increase in the Show Me State of tea party politics among Republicans; tea party factions now control both houses of the Legislature. Newman said she believes Republican members of Congress from Missouri are "all about reelection."
State Rep. Sydney Carlin (D-Manhattan) said she hopes the GOP congressional delegation from her state realizes that its votes are hurting Kansas. She said members need to focus on making tweaks to Obamacare in order to make it better, instead of repealing it.
Kansas residents need access to health care and do not need a government shutdown, said Carlin, adding that she hopes the shutdown will hurt Republicans next year.
"I think it will backfire on them," Carlin said. "I think they are so out of touch with the needs of average, everyday people in Kansas and many of these votes are ill-informed. I know that there are people in Kansas who are unhappy."
Kansas state Rep. Gail Finney (D-Wichita) told HuffPost that the shutdown vote will help Democrats in her state, but at the same time acknowledged that Republican leanings in Kansas will be difficult to overcome. Conservatives in Kansas have taken control of the state Republican Party, winning most primary elections.
The Republican Party is to blame for the actions of the tea party with regards to the shutdown, said Farrar. She noted that Republicans have embraced the tea party in the past for votes.
"They created this to win, but they can't harness it," she said. "You can't feed that beast enough red meat."
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